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The Federal Government Changes the Program that Rates Nursing Homes

The federal government utilizes a five-star rating program for nursing homes, a consumer tool that has been criticized for its reliance on self-reported, unverified data. Recently, the government announced it is implementing several changes to that program.

Five years ago, the five-star rating system was put into place and has become the gold standard for evaluating more than 15,000 nursing homes nationwide. However, two of the major criteria used to rate the facilities, staffing levels and quality statistics, are reported by the nursing homes themselves and are generally not audited by the federal government. Starting in January, changes will be instituted that address this issue.

Beginning next year, nursing homes will have to report their staffing levels every quarter using an electronic system that can be verified with payroll data. A nationwide auditing program will verify whether the reports are accurate. Additionally, nursing homes’ ratings will be based partly on the percentage of its residents who are given antipsychotic drugs.

This fall, The New York Times reported that the five-star rating system relied so heavily on unverified and incomplete information that nursing homes with a documented history of problems were earning top ratings. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees the five-star rating system, hopes that accurate reporting will lead to better health outcomes for patients.

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